North Korean construction workers deployed in Russia are going on the run after hearing they have been assigned to work in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.
High demand for construction in the heavily war damaged Donbas region of Ukraine has led to an increased need for workers, with North Korean immigrants making up a large chunk of the workforce.
Likely fearing for their lives amid the Ukrain-Russia conflict, droves of North Korean workers are instead choosing to flee their jobs and go into hiding, Radio Free Asia reported.
‘After getting the news that the workers would soon be moved to a new construction site in Ukraine, and needed to settle everything by the end of September, many have escaped. It’s not only the construction workers, but also management officials escaping,’ an unnamed source told the publication.
It was also reported that workers were ‘shaken’ by the prospect of being sent to Donbas, instead choosing to live a life in hiding. North Korea has sent manual labourers overseas for years now, usually keeping the majority of workers’ salaries for itself, providing the reclusive nation with a supply of foreign currency.
Despite having most of what they earn taken away, workers still get more money doing this than they would working back home in North Korea, though it seems it is only enough to scrape by on. “North Korean workers live a tired life of despair. They cannot save any money even though they work all day from 8 am to 8 pm and then do additional overtime work at night,” the source said.
Though UN Security Council sanctions issued on North Korea in 2020 banned countries from allowing such a practice, Russia is still believed to be one of the biggest hosts of North Korean manual workers.
According to a UN report published in 2019, around 30,000 North Korean workers were living in Russia in 2017, with the majority working in the port city of Vladivostok, close to the North Korea-Russia border.
Meanwhile, North Koreans aren’t the only ones trying to distance themselves from the war, with Russians themselves having to flee their own country to avoid being drafted.